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Where to Find Affluent Leads, Hire From Within or Out, and More of Your Questions Answered

And how to put your bench jewelers on display when they aren’t so keen.

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Where to Find Affluent Leads, Hire From Within or Out, and More of Your Questions Answered
PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

My store has reached a point where we have several dozen people on staff. I need to appoint a new manager but am torn between looking outside for a pro who could take us to the next level and hiring from within and showing my loyalty to the existing team that brought us this far.

Ah, the joys of being a business owner — one tough dilemma after another. So much depends on what your store needs right now. An outsider could bring specialized skills, knowledge of industry best practices and a fresh perspective while having no existing loyalties or sympathies to any particular “factions” in your store. The downsides are the cost, cultural fit, adjustment time and a lack of appreciation for the nuances of your particular market. As you hint, there is also a question of values at play regarding the relationship between your store and its workers and their development. If you’re the kind of jeweler who views staff as almost family, there could be problems ahead if a hard-nosed professional executive wants to start laying off those who appear to be underperforming. On the other hand, if you have big plans for your store to become something more akin to a corporate entity, you may need someone like that. There is also some middle ground here. If it’s a certain financial expertise you need to introduce to your store, hire such a professional and fill the manager role with someone who lives and breathes your culture. This is one of those areas where you’re likely best advised to list the pros and cons and then go with your gut.

Where can I go prospecting for the kinds of customers who can afford the often-expensive jewelry we sell?

With their landmark publication, The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas Stanley and William Danko showed much of the wealth in America is actually held by people in unglamorous industries like dry cleaning, refuse services, and roofing. That knowledge alone didn’t help business owners hoping to tap this underappreciated pool of affluence because this cohort also stands out for their very high savings rates and aversion to status symbols. They’d rather live in a modest home and drive a Buick than a Benz. Their reflexive response to a call to spend is to tighten the shutters. “These people don’t respond to cold calls and are unlikely to answer surveys and telephone machine solicitations. They are, however, very likely to respond to solid referrals,” says Dr. Kerry Johnson, a sales consultant, who heads Peak Performance Coaching and helps professionals connect with affluent Americans. Once you make a sale, referrals should come, but you must also follow up, says Johnson, adding that introductions by these hidden millionaires to peers can be hugely helpful. But making that first sale is obviously tough. To raise the odds, he suggests focusing on industry organizations. “Acquire association directories of affluence-rich industries. The dry-cleaning industry, for example, has numerous association meetings. Everyone needs speakers. After you speak, collect business cards, put these people on your mailing list, and you’ve got an instant source of affluent prospects.” According to a list on Johnson’s website, the top 10 places to find the truly affluent are dry cleaning businesses (multiple store units), jewelry retailing, legal services (attorneys who focus on corporate and real estate work), specialty tool and die shops, real estate developers, real estate brokerages and property management firms, refuse services, industrial plastics manufacturing, commercial machinery and equipment wholesaling, and home improvement equipment distributors. Another way to build a bridge: Offer to write a column in a trade magazine. “What to look for in a diamond — an insider’s guide.” That’s the kind of information all people who are careful with their money will read.

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I’d like to add a glass wall to our shop so that customers can see our jewelers working. I think it would hammer home our image as the place to get your custom jewelry in our community. But some of my jewelers aren’t so keen on being watched all the time. I assume they’ll get used to it, but is there another solution?

We love being able to see the action of the bench area — especially when something dramatic like casting is happening — but it definitely requires a balance: No one wants to feel like a goldfish in a bowl, and such ceaseless scrutiny doesn’t bring out the best in workers. Karen Hollis of K. Hollis Jewelers in Batavia, IL, faced a similar issue and solved it by putting some distance between her jewelers and the audience. “Our jewelers didn’t want to feel like they were ‘on display,’ so we situated their benches toward the back of the shop facing away from the window. Customers can see our jewelers, benches and equipment, so we get the effect we wanted and the jewelers work undisturbed,” she explains.

A few days ago, a finely dressed lady came to my store with a lot of very “expensive” gemstones. She wants me to set up a store show with my best customers, but I have some doubts, because the stones don’t have any certificates. She said the labs did not want to issue any because the stones are so rare and it would be very costly to issue them. What should I do?

Keep well away from this one. It’s got all the makings of a scam, and you could easily lose your best customers forever. Gail Brett Levine, the executive director of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers, notes that you have to admire the woman’s audacity but says her story about the certificates doesn’t make sense. “Have you known any lab to turn away work? Stay far away!”

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